SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney has called on Derry City and Strabane District Council to welcome the forthcoming referendum on the extension of the right to vote in Presidential elections to Irish citizens living in the North.
The Ballyarnett representative will bring a motion to the monthly meeting of Council on Thursday calling on the Council to recognise the move as an important opportunity to expand the democratic participation of people across the North in the election of the President.
He said: “I am bringing this motion asking council to welcome the fact that the Irish Government are to hold a referendum on the right for Irish citizens in the North and the diaspora to vote in future Presidential elections”.
“I have spoken on motions in the council chamber before calling on the Irish government to allow all Irish citizens the right to vote in presidential elections regardless if they live in Derry or Dublin, Strabane or Sligo”.
“This, I believe is a unique opportunity afforded to Irish citizens who live in the north as a result of the Good Friday Agreement. Our vote and voice holds significant power in terms of the politics of this island but if this referendum is passed it will give citizens here in the north and abroad the opportunity to elect our nations President and I think this is something we should embrace and welcome”.
Colr. Tierney pointed out that 93 countries around the world allowed their overseas citizens to vote and said it was wrong that Irish people in Derry and elsewhere in the North were deprived of the right to vote for the President of their own country.
“Given our nation’s history, a history of forced emirgration people left this island in search of employment, opportunity and with the vision to create a better life for themselves. But they should not leave their right to select out President at Dublin Airport. There are 93 countries across the world which allow overseas citizens to vote. Ireland has one of the strictest polices on the planet where we forbid almost all expatriates from voting and I believe this needs relaxed”.
“As for us citizens in the north Irish citizens living on the island of Ireland we should be afforded a vote in the next and all future presidential elections, we haven’t left Ireland but the current system has left us behind. It’s a bizarre system where citizens in the north are entitled to stand to become the nation’s President but we couldn’t actually vote for ourselves," he said.